EU tackles Spain over various refusals by hospitals to accept European Health Card (EHIC )

Not a specifically Tenerife story, but one which will be of concern to many. There have been several reports of a valid EHIC – European Health Card – being refused in Spanish hospitals with a credit card demanded in its place, and with patients told to reclaim the money on their insurance. Now, the EU is taking legal action against Spain over the flouting of regulations that require the card to be accepted. The EU Commission has formally asked Spain for comment, a required first step for a legal process which could eventually lead to a sanction. This is thus confirmation that the cards must be accepted, and so if anyone finds theirs refused, they should ensure that the rejection is officially recorded.

The EHIC is a free card that provides access for EU nationals to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary visit to any other EU country, as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Treatment or medication is free for the patient at the point of use, with costs reclaimed by the visited nation from the home country of the patient.


  1. Janet as i understand it there are three diffirent types off hospital in Spain the first being totaly free as in the national health service in the uk a mix off free and private and totaly private.
    People need to be aware off this never having the need to visit a hospital in Tenerife i wondered what ones in Tenerife should be accepting your EHIC card. David

  2. Author

    Good question, David. My understanding is that El Mojón, above Los Cristianos, which is a state hospital, should accept the cards without question. It is currently just an A&E (and outpatient) unit, however, so any referral would be to one of the two state hospitals in the north (Candelaria and HUC – despite the name, they are both on the outskirts of Santa Cruz on the TF5). This hospital in El Mojón is the hospital that there is so much fuss about – it will eventually become the main southern Tenerife state hospital.
    There are two other main hospitals in the south, namely Hospitén Sur (the so-called “green hospital) in Playa de las Américas and the Quiron (formerly the USP) Costa Adeje in San Eugenio. The first of these is mixed: it sees casualty attendees as state patients or private, and then transfers state patients who need referral to one of the north hospitals; private patients are treated in-house. EHICs should be accepted here for initial consultations on an A&E basis. The San Eugenio hospital is fully private and I wouldn’t expect EHICs to be accepted.

  3. Janet , wrt the “Green Hospital” – I have had several experiences via my wife an elderly tourist friend and a resident worker.
    My elderly friend (82) took ill and we organised an ambulance to take her to Green hospital where she only had her bank card (no EHIC) as she was insured via her bank account – they deducted €300 Euros initially before admitting her , the claimed they couldn´t trace her bank – RBS !- the took €1000 a day for 3 days treatment .She eventually got her money back via her bank Insurance .
    My wife had occasion to gohaving broke her wrist in a fall and presented her EHIC card and they tried to insist she had insurance and must use it -my wife refused , saying she had no insurance ( she did but was adamant that they treat her under EHIC) – they admitted her and treated her, with operation for 2 days but several times, in her ward bed ,the ” front of house staff ” phoned her harassing her for her insurance details . The actual medical staff could not have been more pleasant and helpful and even issued a permission to fly document free !
    Another friend who works here and pays her social also went there in last few weeks with a broken wrist and they tried to demand €200 up front despite showing her medical card,which she refused , she was treated and subsequently referred to El Mojón .

  4. Perhaps if it didnt take several years to get paid for this they would be keener to take EHIC patients
    I cant remember where i eead it but it aparently take several years to get paid

  5. Author

    Yes, there’s been a lot of comment about greed, but I understand it is this sort of problem that is actually at the root of the issue.

  6. Hello Janet, I was interested in John’s comments, and would be interested in being put in contact with him about the 2 incidents he’s described. I have been researching an article about healthcare in Spain after having previously written on the subject for the Observer in 2006 and 2008 (see below), and also for the Daily Mail.
    I’ve done a lot of reading in the Spanish newspapers about ‘health tourism’, and it seems there is a widespread view amongst politicians, doctors, health chiefs in Spain that Brits and other EU citizens are making trips to Spain especially for the high quality and speedy healthcare. I’m exploring this whole subject (again) and am trying to report on it from all angles — which is v difficult!
    In response to the EC procedures against Spain, the Health Ministry replied that the only complaints it has come across are from ‘no other country but Britain’ and therefore ‘Britons must use valid EHICs and take out travel insurance.’ It has denied anyone with a valid EHIC has been refused free emergency care’, so John’s anecdotes would be very useful.
    my email address is

  7. Author

    Hi Jackie, hopefully John will see this and respond directly. I’ve put your email address in your post for you.

  8. Thanks Janet , I have sent an email to Jackie.

  9. Author

    That’s great John, please do (you or Jackie) let me know of any follow up. I’d be most interested.

  10. I’ve sent Jackie some information , unfortunately she is looking for some names to publish and my wife doesn’t wish to publish her name .
    If anyone else has any experiences with EHIC and are happy to have their name published then please contact Jackie at link above .

  11. Author

    As I’ve said before, though, it’s somewhat misleading, because although some hospitals have refused to accept the EHIC, they are either private hospitals, or part private. They are allowed to charge unless the patients say up front they want to access the state part of the hospital. Most emergency cases don’t know this, of course, and that’s very unfortunate, but not the hospitals’ fault.
    The Mail wants people to believe that the hospitals are doing this because “Spain is hard up”, but the money doesn’t go to “Spain” because the hospitals are private! They’re doing it because they are private and need the funds and have to wait too long for the Spanish Government to refund them.

  12. Janet ,my wife´s experience in the “Green Hospital” was that although she showed her EHIC they still insisted on her giving private medical insurance details , even after her operation as she was recovering after surgery – they still demanded an up-front payment even for EHIC( as well as private insurance )

  13. Can you provide me the full contact details for the State Hospitals in Santa Cruz please.


  14. Author

    They are HUC and Candelaria, links in the names to click on for full details.

  15. We have just returned from Tenerife after a four week stay, during which my husband was admitted to Hospiten Sur.
    He awoke one Sunday morning with double vision. He had never experienced this before. We were advised by my niece, a qualified doctor, to seek immediate medical help.
    We went to the “Urgencias” at Los Cristianos bus station. They accepted his EHIC card and did some routine tests but could find nothing.
    As a result, they gave us an introductory letter to take to Hospiten Sur. When we got there, we presented our EHIC card but they asked if we had travel insurance. By this stage, we were getting really stressed and so, despite our misgivings, we gave them our travel insurance details.
    My husband was given a CT scan and then admitted to the hospital that evening. He had further tests including an MRI scan over the next two days and on the Wednesday was eventually advised that he could be discharged that afternoon.The hospital could not give us a reason for his double vision, which was still a problem, but did rule out a “high risk situation”.They advised us to see our GP when we returned to the UK.
    Having been told that he could be discharged and following a lengthy delay, the hospital then informed us that we had to pay a deposit of 2,800 euros to secure his release. This was our first indication that he had been treated as a private patient and came as a complete surprise to us.The hospital informed us that the reason for the charge was that the insurance company would not issue a guarantee of payment until they had obtained his medical records from our GP.
    My husband still had the connection for the intravenous drip in his hand and the hospital would not remove this until we had paid them the 2,800 euros.
    We felt that we were “hostages”. We couldn’t leave unless we paid up, but if we stayed the bill could increase dramatically each day with no guarantee that the insurance company would reimburse us for the time we stayed after discharge.
    It is no easy task to find such an amount at the drop of a hat but we were fortunate enough to be able to access it via a credit card. Our GP has still not released the necessary information to the insurance company. Apparently this routinely takes 30 days so must affect many people. In fact, had we not been able to find the funds, theoretically my husband could still have been in the hospital facing ever increasing charges.
    As it is, at the very least we will face an excess charge and a hike in our insurance premium. We have also paid out around 50 euros in prescription charges.
    Could you please inform us as to any action we could take to avoid these costs in future?

  16. Author

    The best thing will be if you have a read HERE, where I hope I’ve explained the situation thoroughly. I hope it will clarify how the situation you found yourself in arose, and how to avoid it in future. In the meantime, you can of course get in touch with the EU who are tackling Spain in this respect.

  17. Thank you, Janet, for such a swift and comprehensive response.

  18. This is a common ploy by Hospiten Sur, they will try and avoid accepting EHIC and force you to use insurance if you have it but make you pay up front by taking a credit or debit card imprint and charge around £1000 per day – our Insurance company insisted that we didn’t have to pay but Green Hospital won’t accept that – very shady practice with people who are ill and maybe haven’t got thousands in the bank.
    My wife was adamant with them and got her broken wrist treated via EHIC but they still harassed her after coming out of theatre under anaesthetic for insurance whilst she was recovering in hospital bed !
    Very poor – the consulate were supposed to be chasing this up were they not ? Won’t hold my breath with them then !

  19. Author

    John1, please see the link in my comment a couple above. It takes you to the post about the consulate’s meeting with Hospiten Sur, which happened a few weeks ago.

  20. Thanks Janet , I had read that but unfortunately I had to return to UK for family reasons and missed the meeting .
    My main gripe with Hospiten Sur is that even with Private Medical cover they still insist on taking up front payments of around €1000 per day for each day you reside in hospital despite my insurance company insisting you should pay nothing !
    The front of house people “Interpreters” are very forceful on this – I have had personal experience on 3 occasions of this with family and friends – If you don’t have that kind of money available what do you do ?

  21. Author

    With private medical insurance? Go to the Quiron Costa Adeje in San Eugenio …

  22. Re the advice you gave last year: 28 May 2014 at 12:45 pm
    Q:Can you provide me the full contact details for the State Hospitals in Santa Cruz please. Tim
    A:Janet on 28 May 2014 at 2:36 pm. They are HUC and Candelaria, links in the names to click on for full details.
    ** I thought you’d like to see what any information link-clickers get today; HUC >> : Error 404 – Documento No Encontrado!
    Same with the other one. Thanks to the © Gobierno de Canarias
    It is a recurring feature when following links to Spanish sites to get 404 or 403 ! Thanks to your site I am now much wiser. Ta luv.

  23. Author

    Oh god! Thanks for the positive comments! The links now seem to be Candelaria and HUC!

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